At the Health Club

Is Pasta Making You Fat?

If you are like me, you’ve grown up eating pasta from an early age. Spaghetti, rigatoni, shells, angelhair, you name it, I’ve ate it. Pasta is a great dish, completed by a rich tomato sauce or dressed in olive oil and herbs; it can be a fulfilling dish by itself. Not all pastas are created equal though – a visit to the supermarket shows white, whole-wheat and whole grain pasta offerings. Carb-heavy pasta can require extra trips to the gym so we look at which type is best.

Most Americans eat white pasta, in fact, it’s not their fault. Whole wheat and whole grain pastas were rarely available and not marketed as heavy as the white counterparts. And with this availability, those who have ate the less healthy white pasta will find it harder to switch over to the healthier other types. Some restaurants have begun to offer whole wheat or whole grain pasta as substitutes for white pasta - you should take advantage of this, even if they charge you a buck for this even though they shouldn't charge extra. Whole grain pasta can be more expensive but it's often on sale or priced just slightly higher than white pasta. Even if it's more expensive you'll quickly find how much it's worth it below.

types-of-pasta-healthy-grainWhite Pasta
This pasta is great for those about to embark on a vigorous training session or long run. Many marathons serve up pasta the night before to load the runners on carbohydrates. The reason is that since white pasta is filled with simple carbohydrates and little fiber – made from white flour, it will give you a burst of energy by spiking your blood sugar. And since white pasta doesn’t contain all three layers of the wheat kernel it even lacks some nutrients. Many will also eat more white pasta since it lacks the fiber, contributing to weight gain. Have you ever noticed that you’re very sleepy after eating a bowl of pasta? Well the reason for that is because white pasta spikes your blood sugar – which causes your body to release insulin, this is turn causes the drowsiness, and then sleep. And if you are sleeping you are not burning calories. Ever notice how everyone is sleepy after thanksgiving dinner? Same effect. If you are trying to get rid of a few extra pounds avoid white pasta.

Whole Wheat Pasta
This pasta is made from crushed wheat grain, and does include fiber, magnesium, manganese (which are nutrients from the whole wheat). Healthier than white pasta, this pasta strikes a balance between taste and texture.  Note that sometimes whole wheat products are refined to remove the bran and germ which will make it as nutritious as white pasta – this is often a marketing scheme designed to trick customers into thinking they are eating the healthy stuff when in reality they are not.

Whole Grain Pasta
This is the healthiest pasta you can buy. Make sure it really is whole grain pasta, which as mentioned before contains all three layers of the wheat kernel. You’ll also receive a healthy dose of fiber, nutrients, and no spikes in blood sugar levels which will provide a nice smooth energy stream. Whole grain pasta has been known to lower your blood pressure, reduce your risk of chronic diseases, including heart disease and diabetes. Whole grain pasta does taste different – so it might be best to slowly incorporate it. Try mixing it with white pasta for some time before switching completely. Some people describe the taste as more “earthy”.

Pasta can be a great addition to any meal, and depending on your goals each type may be appropriate. If you’re preparing for a hard workout at the gym and need a burst of energy, try the white pasta, otherwise try to incorporate whole grain pasta so you can eat less and feel great. You can determine how healthy the pasta you are buying is by looking at the nutrition facts. Take a look at how much fiber and vitamins are present. A good way to start is to compare different types of pasta so you can have a baseline, good luck and ciao!